Australia stands by Kevin Rudd after Donald Trump declared he is ‘not the brightest bulb’

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Donald Trump slammed Australia's ambassador to the United States, former PM Kevin Rudd - describing him as 'nasty' and 'not the brightest bulb'.
Donald Trump slammed Australia's ambassador to the United States, former PM Kevin Rudd - describing him as 'nasty' and 'not the brightest bulb'. Credit: GBNews/GBNews

Australia is standing by Kevin Rudd to keep him in Washington as Australia’s ambassador after Donald Trump gave him a scathing character assessment, declaring he is “nasty” and “not the brightest bulb”.

Mr Trump suggested the former Labor prime minister would not be welcome in the role in the US if he returns to power in the November presidential election due to previous personal attacks Mr Rudd made on him.

Technically, the White House can cancel the credentials of Mr Rudd but it would be a huge diplomatic blow to the relationship with one of Australia’s closest allies.

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Mr Rudd was appointed ambassador to the US by the Albanese Government in March 2023 with concerns raised at the time about the former Republican president possibly being re-elected.

In an interview with Nigel Farage for GB News, the former US President said he didn’t know much about Australia’s man in Washington but that he had heard he was “a little bit nasty”.

“I hear he is not the brightest bulb but I don’t know much about him. If he is at all hostile he will not be there long,” Mr Trump said.

The comments came after Mr Farage, a former Brexit party leader, listed off a number of things Mr Rudd reportedly said before he became ambassador about Mr Trump being “destructive to the West” and a “traitor to the US”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused the Coalition of politicising diplomacy after he was asked in Parliament whether he would reassess Mr Rudd’s ambassador role in the US considering he called Mr Trump a “destructive president” in 2020.

He also pointed to comments made by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton last month where he endorsed Mr Rudd in the role.

Mr Dutton told Sky News on February 11 that he thought Mr Rudd was representing Australia well in his position in Washington and that he would not seek to replace him if he became prime minister at the next Federal election.

“That’s a fairly significant statement, but that’s exactly as the Prime Minister puts it as well,” Mr Albanese said.

“The relationship with the United States is very important. It should be beyond the sort of cheap politics that we saw earlier today.”

Mr Dutton claimed he had been misrepresented by Mr Albanese and said he had previously had “complimentary things to say about Mr Rudd” given it was in Australia’s national interest for him to be successful in the role.

However, Mr Dutton said Mr Rudd must respond to “very serious” comments and called for him to repair his relationship with Mr Trump given he could be re-elected as president.

“They need to be answered and Mr Rudd needs to repair the relationship,” Mr Dutton said.

“That’s the point we are making and we won’t be…intimidated by these bully boys over there.”

Foreign Minister Senator Wong argued Mr Rudd was doing an “excellent job” in advancing the nation’s interests in America, particularly the “phenomenal amount of work” he had done in furthering the AUKUS pact.

“Mr Rudd is a very effective ambassador, he is recognised across his Parliament as doing an excellent job in advancing Australia’s interests in the United States,” Senator Wong said.

“He has been active in engaging with members of Congress on both sides of politics and he is a former prime minister, former foreign minister, is experienced and skills mean he is able to work closely with whoever is elected by the American people.”

A Federal Government spokesman said Mr Rudd was “doing a good job as Australia’s Ambassador to the United States”.

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham said any ambassador representing the country needed to be “able to work across the aisle to ensure they achieve the best interests for Australia”.

“It’s not about Kevin Rudd, or any individual, it’s about Australia’s best interests,” Senator Birmingham told the ABC.

“If there are relationships that he needs to repair then he needs to set about doing so to ensure that he can put Australia’s interests first regardless of the outcome of the US elections.”

Australian National University’s strategic and defence studies centre Professor John Blaxland said Mr Trump was a “showman” that was “getting attention for himself”.

“He’s sending a message to Australia that ‘I’ll deal with Australia on my terms’. And those terms, we already understand. There are shared values but this is also one where we share interests,” Professor Blaxland told The West Australian.

“(It’s) highly unlikely (Australia is going to get rid of Mr Rudd as the ambassador). It is only going to happen if the ambassador does something that’s seen as egregious, which he is not going to do. He’s a very astute diplomat. He’s a seasoned veteran at this game.”

The former US President has had fallouts with other Australian leaders, including a notorious phone conversation with then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017.

Mr Trump berated Mr Turnbull over a refugee swap between Australia and America, which the former US President was reportedly against.

“(Mr Trump) was very angry, we had quite a row about it,” Mr Turnbull said at the time.

“It started off, ‘No way, Jose,’ and ended up, ‘Yes, but I hate you.’ I got the right outcome but it was a pretty tough call.”

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